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Paying It Forward
Photo: Yuri Arcurs
You can find information on the Internet about how to do almost anything. But I must admit to being pleasantly surprised at finding practical steps and tips for the “pay it forward” concept popularized by Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book and later made into a movie. I didn’t expect wikihow.com to have content that is so genuinely kind!

This whole idea of ordinary people making a positive difference in the world one simple act at a time could totally change our society. And it wouldn’t take that long to feel the effects. Just the other day I was able to give a store coupon I wasn’t using to a woman ahead of me in line. It saved her 20 percent on her purchase and she was so pleased. Being able to show unexpected kindness to a complete stranger is truly a great feeling.

Four Simple Steps

If you’re interested, here are four simple steps to get you started with paying it forward:

1. Be attentive wherever you are for opportunities to help someone. Perhaps you have an elderly or disabled neighbor who is too proud to ask for help with yard work. Or maybe you see a couple in a restaurant who looks like they would appreciate a kind stranger paying for their meal. Even paying the bridge toll for the driver behind you counts.

2. Do something nice for someone you don’t know (or don’t know very well) without expecting anything in return.

3. Spread the word. If people thank you and want to “repay” you, say that what you’d really like is for them to pay it forward by doing something nice for three strangers and asking those people to do something nice for three more.

4. Pay it forward yourself. When someone does something nice for you, practice three additional acts of kindness toward others.


It can feel risky to help strangers. Trust your own good intentions and don’t be afraid to go out on a limb if you believe your actions can really help. Most nice things done for strangers will be one-time efforts, so use your head and don’t give out your name or phone number. If someone seems to expect you to provide additional help but you can’t go that far, smile and say you prefer to remain anonymous.

Don’t expect profuse thanks, or even any thanks at all. Some people will not act grateful, but the benefits may still come around when you aren’t there to see them. Your action is enough in itself. If you have made the world a friendlier place, you succeeded. And you will likely find yourself becoming more grateful for everyday kindness from people you don’t even know.

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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